If you’re confused about the FDA’s announcement linking dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) to grain-free diets, you’re not alone! According to an iHeartDogs poll taken by 4,000 people, roughly 50% of owners currently using grain-free are planning on switching, while the other 50% are sticking with grain-free.
Here’s 7 things you need to know about the FDA’s announcement in order to make the best decision for your dog:
👉 1) DON’T RELY ONLY ON SUMMARIES AND OPINIONS, READ THE ACTUAL REPORT FROM THE FDA
Much has been said in the media about the update, but it seems few have read the text or the full reports.
The most recent FDA update is available here.
Perhaps more importantly, read the full list of DCM reports from dog owners and veterinarians.
👉 2) THERE ARE OVER 60 BRANDS NAMED IN THE REPORT, NOT JUST 16
The mainstream media confusedly began reporting headlines such as “These 16 pet food brands are linked to heart disease.” While these 16 brands had the most reports, there are many more brands also linked. Other common brands named more than once include Purina, Canidae, Iams, Royal Canin, Hill’s Science Diet, Halo, Wellness Core, and many more. Frustratingly though, the FDA only called out brands and not the specific formula of the food. Often times the exact formula isn’t mentioned, only the brand.
Also, while the majority of reports (90%) are from grain-free foods using legumes instead of grains, there are still some grain based foods in the reports. Some have speculated that since the 2018 announcement that the FDA was investigating a link with grain free caused both owners and veterinarians to disproportionately report incidents involving grain-free foods.
👉 3) DESPITE THE REPORTS, THE FDA DOES NOT ACTUALLY RECOMMEND CHANGING FOODS (YET)
According to the report, “Based on the data collected and analyzed thus far, the agency believes that the potential association between diet and DCM in dogs is a complex scientific issue that may involve multiple factors.”
In a separate FDA Q&A post, the agency makes the surprising statement “At this time, we are not advising dietary changes based solely on the information we have gathered so far… we do not think these cases can be explained simply by whether or not they contain grains, or by brand or manufacturer.” Full Q&A here.
👉 4) GREE-FREE SUBSTITUTES SUCH AS LENTILS, CHICKPEAS, AND OTHER LEGUMES MAY BE PART OF THE PROBLEM
Many have mistakenly assumed that grains are the cure to DCM. More likely is the possibility that legume based grain-free substitutes are the culprit and are affecting the way a dog’s body processes taurine, leading to nutritional DCM. While many pet parents are switching back to foods that contain grains, others are choosing grain-free foods that do not contain legumes such peas, chickpeas, and lentils high up on the ingredient list.
A commonly believed myth is that grain-free foods are lower in carbohydrates, which is rarely the case. If your dog doesn’t have a grain allergy or intolerance, you may not need a grain-free food.
👉 5) DO YOUR HOMEWORK AND TALK TO YOUR VET
Here’s some excellent resources on DCM written by Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionists:
There is also a large and very active group on Facebook about nutritional DCM
👉 6) SEEK IMMEDIATE HELP IF YOUR DOG SHOWS SIGNS OF DCM
Out of 77 million dogs in the US, the FDA has received 524 official reports of DCM. However, many more cases are likely unreported.
You should be on the lookout for the following possible signs of DCM:
– Decreased energy
– Difficulty breathing
– Episodes of collapse
👉 7) SHOULD YOU CONSIDER ROTATIONAL FEEDING OR FRESH NON-COMMERCIAL DIETS?
If we’re honest, we have to admit we just don’t know all the facts yet, and neither does the FDA.
With that said, we believe it’s more critical than ever to rotate the foods we feed our dogs. Just like the ancestors of dogs would rotate the food they eat in the wild, and just like we as humans constantly rotate our foods, dogs do better with variety. Rotational feeding is not popular amongst commercial pet food brands, because it’s not in their best interest for you to be switching brands. But with all the recalls and scares we’ve seen lately, we believe rotational feeding is a safe bet to minimize the possibility of DCM or your pet being affected by dangerous recalls.
And while its not for everyone, there hasn’t been a better time to at least consider fresh, non-commercial cooked or raw diets. Yes it takes work and has potential downside if done incorrectly, but we have to honestly ask ourselves we want to put the life of our dogs into the hands of any one company. Let’s be honest, our dogs are worth the extra time and effort, aren’t they?
Because every dog matters,